A magnificent performance by the Hammers.
Depleted Cradley gave 110% at Malvern and came so close to winning it as the Hillsiders made their keeper their Man-of-the-Match.
The traffic chaos on this dark night on the M5 and the roads around Worcester was all Northbound thankfully. Going Southbound we had no problems and some of us arrived at Langland Avenue at 5.30pm which was a bit early!
Our skipper Ross Love had got injured in the closing stages of the Gornal game on Saturday and there were other absentees so we had just eleven men to do battle with high-flying Malvern Town.
Again some of us Cradley fans were fearing the worst against a team third in the table who had not lost at home in the league all season. As it turned out every man jack of our players was an absolute hero on the night, a real credit to our club and so unlucky not to have won the game. Mind you it was a game with close shaves at both ends so Malvern might think they were unlucky too!
There have been some really big improvements at Malvern with the toilets and the clubhouse being nicely modernised, and they had got loads of new floodlight bulbs and fittings lying against the perimeter of the ground ready to be installed when they get a few days break in their home fixtures. There was a large contingent there from the Worcestershire FA Centre of Refereeing Excellence group which added to the occasion.
The game was a pulsating end-to-end affair from start to finish. As soon as the ball was in one keeper’s hands there was an attack at the other end within seconds.
Overall Malvern had more of the attacks in the first half but Cradley had more of the attacks after the break.
Our first real chance came on 15 minutes when Scott Stevenson put our new man Anthony Cox clear but their keeper rushed out to block his shot. On 39 minutes R’mar Murray ran at the Malvern defence and fired a fierce shot just over.
On 39 minutes R’mar Murray (second right) fires over the Malvern cross-bar.
Cradley went straight on to the attack as the second period began. Lewis Clarke challenged their keeper for a high ball and when the loose ball fell to R’mar Murray his shot was deflected just past the post for a Cradley corner. Scott Stevenson’s short corner routine didn’t please the management on this occasion as we lost possession.
On 52 minutes Anthony Cox (who never stopped running throughout) put in a great ball which found Geoff Hill in front of goal. Geoff chose to take it on his chest when a header might have been the better option and his shot was blocked.
On 52 minutes Geoff Hill (9) brings down a ball from Anthony Cox but his shot was blocked by the Malvern keeper Charles Weaver. We had the temerity to suggest to Geoff he could have scored with a header and he cheerfully agreed it might have been the better option.
All this time Malvern were making attempts to threaten our goal but our defenders and midfielders were magnificent closing them down, blocking shots and passes and defending corners. Our keeper Richard Kennedy was given a hard time by the experienced Hillsiders at these corner kicks but we stood firm. When the home team did manage to find a scoring opportunity their efforts were thankfully high or wide or saved by Richard.
For the first fifteen minutes after the break we were all over Malvern winning corner after corner and claiming a hand-ball on one occasion but the referee turned down our appeals.
Then Malvern came back into the game heading a corner against our cross-bar on 63 minutes.
On 74 minutes another super ball from Anthony Cox put Geoff Hill through one-on-one with their keeper but Geoff’s chip went agonizingly inches past the post. Sooo close!! Geoff pounded the turf in frustration.
On 74 minutes Geoff Hill (9) is clear on goal but his chip goes just inches wide of the Malvern post!
On 76 minutes the Malvern centre-back Dene Whittal-Williams cynically tripped Geoff Hill near the Malvern corner flag after Geoff took control of the ball and was cautioned. Five minutes earlier Dene was upfield in the Cradley half when Geoff Hill threatened to leave him stranded so he cynically pushed Geoff to the ground and was yellow carded. Thus two yellow cards saw Dene Whittal-Williams taking an early shower and Malvern were down to ten men.
On 81 minutes Cradley’s Liam Morris had a chance just inside the Malvern box but he mis-timed his hook shot and the ball went harmlessly through to their keeper. Liam always gets into some good situations but his first goal for us still eludes him.
Anthony Cox shot over on 85 minutes and Liam Morris had another effort tipped away by their keeper on 88 minutes. Anthony Cox took the resulting corner kick which swung into the keeper who managed to push it over his bar. From the resulting corner again on 89 minutes the keeper got into all sorts of trouble as the ball swung into him again. He tried to push this one over but the ball hit his arm, dropped down on the goal-line and up against the inside of the post finall being cleared by a defender before Liam Morris could get to it. Oh sooo close again!!!
On 89 minutes Anthony Cox’s corner is mis-punched by the Malvern keeper….
….the ball bounces down on to the goal-line….
….then it bounces up against the inside of the post….
….and is finally booted away by Phil Harris (16) before Liam
Morris (7) can get to it!!!!!
Malvern came back at us strongly in the three minutes added on but again we stood firm and repelled their late attacks. If we had lost to a late goal it would have been a travesty of justice.
Rather unkindly the Malvern manager, obviously miffed they hadn’t had their usual big win, claimed in the local paper we had gone their just to defend and were wasting time from the initial kick-off! He said:-
“They came with a game-plan to get a result, killing time from the beginning,” “Because we have progressed so much and are a good side, it seems teams are coming to our ground with a game-plan. “Before, sides would come and give it a go, so I have to see that as a positive.”
Well our stats show we attacked just as much as they did and we virtually dominated the second half. Also their own web-site named their keeper Charles Weaver man-of-the-match because he ‘pulled off so many good saves’. That hardly backs up their manager’s claims we were just defending.
We travelled back up the A449 just in case there were problems again on the M5 feeling very proud of our lads and thinking ‘if only we could have converted one of those chances’.